Confab attendees crazy for latest portable content

The Cannes Film Festival may be mad about stars, but Mipcom, the key annual TV Riviera rendezvous that wraps today, has been mad about mobile.

The Croisette was full of hip attendees ready to whip out the latest portable prototype, usually with surprisingly sizable screen, and demonstrate just what it could do.

Biggest gripe of participants was about being shut out of SRO auditoriums during Mobile Day Wednesday, when speakers from Endemol’s Peter Bazalgette to Orange’s Pascal Thomas shared their visions of what the upcoming content would look like and how consumers would interact with it.

Attendance at the 21st edition of the five-day sales bazaar had reached 11,616 by late Wednesday, a post-9/11 record, up 7% from last year. The number of exhibiting companies was up 9%, to 1,518. And folks registered to buy product topped out 7% above last year’s tally at 3,482.

Many of the newcomers to the convention were, not surprisingly, in the new content area.

There’s even a mobile corridor of new exhibs in the convention hall with names such as Bluestreak, Streammezzo, Entriq and Narrowstep, with top execs no older than 30.

And the patois of the Palais has evolved as well: You’re nowhere if you can’t converse fairly intelligently about PPV, VO-IP, SVOD, WAP, EPY, DMGS et al.

As News Corp.’s top tech guru Abe Peled put it, “When new technology first comes along, you wonder why it’s taking so long to change things; then a few years later, you’re stunned at how fast it all happened.”

The international TV biz is coming out of the stunned phase and starting to make sense of how to profit from what was described here as “the personalized, anytime, any-space, on-any-screen” consumption of content.

“There’s no doubt that digital media buyers and players will take on a bigger role at the upcoming Mip (in March) and future Mipcoms,” said Reed Midem’s top TV manager, Paul Johnson, on Thursday. (Reed Midem organizes both markets.)

Both Canada’s Chum TV and the U.K.’s BBC, for example, recently put digital experts at the top of their programming hierarchy — a move likely to be mirrored at other companies.

“The mobile content biz is taking off really fast,” said Jonathan Hutchings, CEO of Aussie distrib World Wide Entertainment. “At the last market, people just barely knew what it was. Now it is really gaining traction — everyone is talking about it.”

On a mundane level, however, everyone in Cannes had to adapt their skeds due to torrential downpours. Rain damage made the Riviera extension, which backs onto the Mediterranean, look like a ghost town Thursday. MTV, Hallmark and Granada were among the companies that had to be relocated to hotels along the Croisette.

TV sales execs generally wrap up business in three or four days even when the event at hand lasts five.

But while there were certainly fewer folks trawling the convention floor, pre-scheduled back-to-back meetings were still going on at most stands.

And a broad sampling of sales honchos late Thursday suggested that biz was paying off — even if buyers complained that hot titles were too few and far between.

Germany’s ZDF Enterprises reported brisk trade on its kidvid, with execs declaring that live action was selling well and that markets were continuing to grow.

“I am under the impression that it is busier than before, and the trend toward market recovery is still ongoing,” said ZDF sales head Christian Massmann.

Sherri Strain, head of U.S. horror house the Asylum, said her business was 150%-200% better than on her previous Mip trip, even though an increasing number of her deals are done by email. Strain reported particularly good results in Japan and Benelux.

Alexander van Dulmen, head of Berlin-based Eastern European Acquisitions Pool, said biz was back in several of its core Eastern Euro markets, including Bulgaria and Hungary. “It is unbelievable. I am happy we could close deals in so many territories,” he said.

Andrew Bae from South Korea’s Joongang Broadcasting said his company was doing good trade with the U.S. thanks to a number of new Asian-themed channels. Joongang is looking at launching its own programming platform Stateside.

On the Enterprise Ireland stand the mood was sunny. Tile Films, for one, reported $1 million in new commissions for its high-definition formats.

“It makes such a difference for us, coming from a smaller territory, to have this kind of presence at Mip,” said director of development Dave Farrell.

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